The second season of the Grand Prix Badminton League (GPBL), which was scheduled to get underway on Sunday, has been put off indefinitely. The decision was announced on Saturday evening by Prashanth Reddy, League Commissioner and CEO of Bitsport Private Limited, the promoter of GPBL.
The organisers’ hands were forced after a slew of India’s well-known players, including the fast-rising Mithun Manjunath and world championship medallist Sai Praneeth, pulled out of the event on the face of relentless pressure exerted by the Badminton Association of India (BAI), which deems the League as “unrecognised.”
The second season was launched amidst much fanfare earlier this month, with badminton legend Prakash Padukone gracing the occasion and exuding hope that such competitions would help in the further development of the sport in India.
Mithun, the 25-year-old Bengaluru shuttler who is one of the four men’s singles players in India’s Asian Games roster alongside H.S. Prannoy, K. Srikanth, and Lakshya Sen, was bought for a staggering ₹14.5 lakh by Chennai Superstarz in the auction. Sai Praneeth was procured by Northeast Rhinos for ₹10 lakh.
However, closer to the start date, players were said to be “troubled and terrified” of the potential consequences, and Sportstar understands that while most of the foreign players on the roster arrived in the city on Friday, a majority of the Indian players did not take their designated flights.
“We have been forced to take this decision in the interest of the players,” said Reddy. “We have hit pause. The BAI can be vindictive towards the players, and we don’t want them to suffer. We are not a rogue league or a rebel league. We want to work with BAI for the betterment of the sport, and we will continue to try. But so far, that conversation has not happened,” he added.
The development has come despite GPBL securing legal relief from the Karnataka High Court on Friday where the conduct of this year’s tournament and participation of the players were both allowed. The relief was interim, just enough to hold this year’s edition while the case was posted for final hearing on September 12.
But BAI released a statement late on Friday stating that since the petition was not judged on merits, the Association would be free to take retrospective action against those taking part if the case is eventually decided against GPBL.
“The BAI’s reasoning in the court was that the conduct of such leagues would disturb the national calendar,” Reddy stated. “They also claim to have supported all the players from their initial years and that we [GPBL] cannot use their talent for our league. It’s not true.
“Because of this, someone like Mithun will lose out on more than ₹14 lakh, which would be twice of what he is earning in a year. The ₹8.54 crore we have so far spent on the League has also gone to waste,” he added.
There has been frenetic legal activity in the recent past with regards to GPBL at both the Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court of India. GPBL got the High Court’s go-ahead in July when a single-judge bench restrained the BAI from taking any coercive action against the players.
Four days ago, on an appeal from BAI, the Supreme Court quashed the order and sent the matter back to the Karnataka High Court to be heard afresh. A single-judge bench of the High Court provided the interim relief to GPBL on Thursday, which was later upheld by a division bench on Friday.
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